February 22, 2013
Jack Lew nomination
Former White House chief of staff and current nominee for Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

The Senate is returning next week, and all indications are that the filibuster against Chuck Hagel will be defeated, filling an important cabinet vacancy. It’s not clear yet how successful the filibuster against Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will be, but that nomination too will continue to move forward.

However, there is no nominee for Secretary of Labor. There is no nominee for Secretary of Energy. There is no nominee for Secretary of Commerce, which has been open since June. There’s no nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget, either; that critical post opened up when Jack Lew became White House Chief of Staff in January, and it’s still open as he leaves that job a year later. And that’s just the most prominent staff positions: There are plenty more open spots for which the president hasn’t yet named anyone.

Meanwhile, there are also dozens of judicial vacancies without a nominee, including nine Appeals Court spots. Just to take the most glaring: while Obama has named picks for the two DC Circuit Court vacancies that have been open since before he was president (yes, before), he hasn’t named replacements for the two other DC Circuit spots.

Granted, to some extent, the Senate can be at fault for what appears to be White House foot-dragging. But overall, filling these positions just hasn’t seemed to be a high priority for the Obama Administration. In my view, it’s the biggest mistake of his presidency. It means that his influence on the bureaucracy and on the judiciary simply won’t be as strong as it could be — and that neither the executive nor the judicial branch of government will be running at peak performance.

The bottom line is that if the president doesn’t make these things priorities, they won’t happen. And as far as anyone can tell, Barack Obama isn’t making them his priority — which means he’s voluntarily squandering a fair percentage of his own presidency. It’s bad for him, bad for those who elected him, and bad for the nation.